Hand Health: What to do with your CrossFit paws.
So you’ve joined the ranks of us who are doing more pull-ups than we ever knew could exist in a year in a day…
and you’ve ripped your hands because, you know, that’s what happens when you do a kajillion pull-ups (approximately).
Fret not, sweaty friends. There is hope yet for you.
First off, let me direct you toward wiser people than myself.
- There is an entire series written on Hand Health by a dude named Keith Wittenstein up at CrossFit Virtuosity. Here’s the first part of the series. I would strongly recommend reading the entire thing.
- You should really look into taping your hands. By your own tape from a Sports Store and just keep it around your gym bag, your shoe, or your lock box (as the situation will sometimes call for on a “Death By Pull-ups” day…) Here’s a video that shows you how to do it. No joke. It helps. And don’t get all feisty and rip it off and throw it around the gym because you feel like you’re slipping a bit at first. Give it some time. I tape up for any WOD that puts me over a hundred pull-ups. Plain and simple. Anything less and I figure I want to build up a non-taped tolerance.
- If you’re Oly-lifting for the first time you can also tape around your thumb when getting used to using hook grip. No biggie. You’ll still adjust eventually… but you may not whine as much. ;)
Secondly, let me give you a very concise “how to” on prevention.
- File down your calluses with a ped-egg. Just do it. This doesn’t mean shaving your calluses down to the bone… it just means making it so that when you grip the bar your callus isn’t on side of the bar while your palm is on the other… this is what makes you rip!
- If you choose not to tape (and you should tape for anything over 100… and definitely if you are still ripped, and REALLY if you are a beginner and ALWAYS ripping – duuuuuhhhh) then watch your hands. Make sure your calluses aren’t building up to the point where they are going to rip.
- Don’t keep re-gripping the bar. Ideally your hands shouldn’t have to move around that much on the bar. They should stay in one place.
- Don’t use TONS of chalk. Chalk is meant to be used to lightly dust your hands… not ice them! Lebron, this means you!
Finally, here’s a basic how-to on what to do when you do rip.
- You can finish the WOD if you want… but really. I’d say if you’ve got more pull-ups left than you can deadhang in one go… don’t bother. There will be OTHER days… but ripping MORE takes you out of doing pull-ups for weeks at a time… even months. Don’t do it, ladies and gents.
- Once you finish the WOD it will be time to show other people your rips, wince in pain, clorox your barbell or bar, etc. Do this with great relish and you might even end up on this here blog.
- You want to wash your wounds as soon as possible as this is a GYM… people do sweat and though we do have it cleaned frequently – y’all are filthy! All kidding aside, there is hydrogen peroxide available. It will sting. You may scream. You will not like it. As the saying goes, you can cry – but don’t be a baby.
- Once your wounds are washed I would highly recommend going home and cutting away any scraps. Do not give said scraps as mementos of love to your trainers. We do not want them (ok.. that’s a little bit of a lie.. I once hung up someone’s hand scraps on the wall for about a year next to my desk.) Common tools are washed nail clippers or small scissors. If you use your teeth you get extra points for being NASTY. If you’ve got blood blisters… don’t pop them. If you want to go the truly medically recommended route (cue disclaimer: because HEY, I’m NOT A DOCTOR THIS IS ONLY WHAT I WOULD DO IF I WERE YOU! IN FACT CONSIDER THIS NOT ADVICE AT ALL BUT MERELY A STORY…) I would not cut any blisters you have. All that said – anything loose should be snipped so it doesn’t rip more.
- Clean out your wounds again… and throw some antibiotic on there just this once but not all the time, the wounds need to breathe a little to heal properly.
- If you want them to heal well, toss some salt in your hand and hold it. Don’t hate me… but really… your hands will heal MUCH faster if you do this.
- Now, when you come to class… you had better be taped or you had better TELL us that you have ripped hands. There should be none of this pseudo-heroic usage of raw paws for “Fran” the day after “Angie”. If you are taped in most cases you can do anything with torn hands… if you are not taped you will be doing ring rows or some such bizness or… well I’m just not even going to talk to you.
- At work and around the house if you’re still ripping when you’re doing normal things you can buy this stuff called New Skin (available at CVS) to help things heal faster. You can also tape if during every day life if you need to. No matter what have a period during the day where the wound is open to air. Night-time is usually a good time for this.
Every tissue has its limits… whether it’s your quadriceps muscle when you squat a new PR, your stomach as it stretches to accommodate food, your brain as it struggles to acquire glucose or what have you. Your hands will rip at some point because you are doing CRAZY things to them all at once. The trick is to let them heal properly and to be sure that you are not expecting more of them than they can give.
Example: I used to rip all the time when I did pull-ups. Then I ripped only when I did like 55. Then 69-71 was the magic realm of ripping… now 100 usually doesn’t do anything to them. Anything past that I’m not sure yet but I haven’t ripped badly (so bad I couldn’t do a WOD) in about a year now.
One last little word of advice: don’t expect your friends to understand the rips. That’s ok. They’ll understand other things like how to run for 3 miles every day or how to do calf raises with intensity perhaps. When you shake hands with new friends… they’re going to be a little scared. That’s ok. Superheroes are used to that.